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Finding the Best Bowling Ball for 2017: A Buyer’s Guide

Bowling is a sport enjoyed by millions of numbers of people from all corners of the world. It can be a great activity for family time, corporate team-building or even a date, but if you wish to get better and improve your average, getting your own ball is a crucial step to take. When you're just getting started, it's perfectly fine to use the house balls you find on the racks at the alley: it won't cost you a dime and you can start to get the hang of how to throw a good shot. Eventually, though, you'll want to graduate to your own ball. Why is that?

First, when you get your own ball you get it drilled to fit your hand perfectly, which leads to more consistency in your delivery and release. An ill-fitting ball makes it much more difficult to score highly. Also, the alley balls are usually very cheap and old, so they likely aren't made of the best materials and will have picked up quite a few dings and imperfections over the years which make it roll less true. Forgoing these communal balls in favor of your own customized one is a vital stop on your journey to bowling success.

Main Categories of Bowling Balls

Entry Level Bowling Balls

If you're just getting started with bowling but recognize the advantages of getting your own ball, you'll want to get started with one that won't break the bank and will allow you to improve your skills easily. Assuming that you're like the vast majority of beginners who throw a straight ball on their first shot, the type of ball to go for is made of plastic or polyester (they mean the same thing but are called by both names). These balls have less friction on the lane and are designed to travel true and straight, so you can achieve consistency in your shot. Even when you step up to the next level, you'll want to keep your plastic ball around to use for your spare shots.

rack of bowling balls

Intermediate Level Bowling Balls

When you've graduated from your straight ball days, say when your league average is in the 140-170 range, or you just want to mix it up and try a new challenge, hooking the ball is the next step. And the plastic/polyester coverstock isn't ideal for hooking as it doesn't react sufficiently with the lane surface. Urethane balls, on the other hand, do allow for greater action between the ball and the lane, which will let it have more of a hook. In general urethane will play best on dry and medium lanes as a strike ball, or as a spare ball in any conditions.

Advanced Bowling Balls

For bowlers who invest more time in the game and want to perform at a higher level, such as tournaments or a competitive league, there are special urethane balls that have added ingredients for even more hook potential: resin particles. These are called resin or reactive resin balls and typically they are the most expensive, but also the most powerful and capable of getting you the most strikes on your first ball. The particles can be made from various materials, so reactive balls can be geared towards different types of lane conditions. Next we'll look at a few specific balls from major companies, so if you've been wondering what is the best bowling ball on the market today, you'll know the top candidates.

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Top 10 Bowling Balls for Sale

Bowling Ball Reviews for #1-5

1. Brunswick T-Zone

brunswick tzone caribbean blue bowling ball

The Brunswick TZone has a polyester coverstock, so this makes it a good ball for beginning bowlers on any lane conditions. Brunswick is a huge name in bowling and this particular line has been around for a few generations. The latest version, however, is the best yet: it makes for a great straight ball and is attractive but functional.

2. Columbia 300 Freeze Hybrid

columbia freeze hybrid bowling ball

Columbia features an extensive line of many different types of bowling balls, and the Freeze Hybrid is a reactive option that provides for extremely high performance. Its coverstock features both solid and pearl materials which facilitate a powerful hook and strike potential, and that's coupled with a modified messenger core. All in all, the Freeze Hybrid is very popular among serious bowlers, and it's the #1 best selling bowling ball on Amazon, which is always a strong indication of quality.

3. Hammer Black Widow Legend

hammer black widow legend bowling ball

According to many in the bowling world, the Hammer Black Widow Legend is aptly named. Legendary in this case is more than just hype due to what Hammer brings to this excellent reactive ball that's best for more advanced bowlers. The Black Widow line has been popular and successful for a long time, and this latest version takes it to a new level. First, it has a hybrid coverstock, which is a first for the Black Widows, and it's extremely aggressive and ideal for medium-heavy oil. The popular Gas Mask core is also used in this ball, which helps with a strong backend. Hammer stands by their products and the Legend has a 3 year manufacturer's warranty.

4. Ebonite Maxim

ebonite maxim bowling ball

In contrast to the previous two which were best for experienced bowlers, this is another entry level ball that's great for those just getting started in the game. Alternatively, it can be a reliable spare ball for bowlers who are indeed a bit more advanced. The Ebonite Maxim line has a polyester coverstock and is a good option for reliability and consistency in your shots.

5. Pyramid Path Rising Pearl

pyramid path rising pearl bowling ball

This ball is features a polyester coverstock and it can be a good choice for beginning or intermediate bowlers. It's an entry level ball but still packs quite a wallop, with a New Era 139 Symmetric Core and a Path Reactive Pearl coverstock to help ensure your ball delivers when you need it to.

Top Rated Bowling Ball Reviews #s 6-10​

6. Storm Cruz Pearl

This is one of the finest offerings in the Storm lineup, with an ERG Pearl Reactive coverstock and an asymmetrical Catalyst core. As with some of the other balls on this list, this isn't the first ball in the Crux line, and the Crux Pearl is an improvement upon the previous version giving you a great backend and superior entry angle to the pins in medium-heavy oil. It also thrives in heavy oil, by giving you a skid/flip reaction.

7. Roto Grip Wrecker

This is a good reactive resin ball from Roto Grip, a company that dates back to 1955 and produced a number of very popular polyester balls in the 70s and 80s. Today the brand is owned by Storm, and the Roto Grip Wrecker is a good reactive ball with a 52ML Hybrid Reactive coverstock and a Neutron core, which is a late rolling core which gives you length and aggressive down lane movement. It's ideal for medium to light lane conditions.

8. Brunswick Strike King

The Brunswick Strike King is a reactive resin ball, which usually are the most expensive variety, but it's on the lower end of the price scale which makes it a good deal. This makes it a good choice for bowlers who want to hook their ball but might not have extensive experience yet. The Strike King has a SK13 Reactive coverstock and a Strike King Symmetrical core, finished off with 500 Siaair Micro Pad high gloss polish.

9. Storm Mix Urethane

This offering from the Storm brand has a traditional 3-piece core and a U1S Pearl Urethane coverstock. As a urethane ball it can be used as either an entry level hook ball on mostly dry conditions (like your local house pattern) or a spare ball with an attractive look and pinpoint accuracy. As such, beginners or advanced bowlers can benefit, and it won't break the bank.

10. Hammer Blue

The Blue Hammer has a Performance Urethane coverstock, and it's a ball that's best suited for hook on drier lanes or a spare ball on any surface. This is a classic old-school ball, dating back a few decades, but this version has been re-engineered for today's conditions, so you get the best of both worlds.

Bowling Ball Buying Guide

After reading our bowling ball reviews, there are still a couple of questions you might have. The first you might have is where to buy bowling balls. There are plenty of places you might buy a bowling ball, ranging from a department store to your local alley to a variety of websites both small and large. We recommend Amazon for a few reasons. First, it's a trusted name so you don't have to worry, and you likely already do a decent amount of your shopping there. As in many other product categories, it's able to offer unbeatable prices, and often free 2-day shipping. And finally, it has an incredible selection, with more variety than you will typically find elsewhere. (Also take a look at bowling shoes on Amazon, as you can get great deals on bowling footwear as well.)

Another question is where to get your bowling ball drilled, since it will ship without the finger holes drilled. When you purchase a bowling ball, it comes in a box without finger holes, and this is because you want it to be a custom fit. This means that you'll still need to get it drilled to your hand by a professional. Call around to your local pro shops to inquire how much they will charge for the surface and take it to the best option you can find. You can expect to pay around $30-50, and if you get quoted a rate that seems high, mention that you're shopping around and be sure to get a second opinion from another alley. If you bowl in a league at a local alley, you might try that place first since they may give you a good rate or even for free if you know the right people. Finally, you may wonder if you have to do anything to keep your ball in top shape, and indeed you should give it a basic cleaning every couple of weeks. We hope this article has been helpful! If you have questions or comments about the best bowling balls, leave a comment below.

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One Response to Finding the Best Bowling Ball for 2017: A Buyer’s Guide
  1. Denise Miller
    August 10, 2016 | 2:34 am

    very helpful topic for building your arsenal. Also it would be nice if you write something more about taking care of your bowling balls

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